Surviving an Overly Demanding Interview Process
By Joe Issid
Monster Contributing Writer
I have always been a big proponent of staying active on the interview scene - no matter how happy you may be at your job. I feel that keeping one's ear to the ground can greatly benefit your career - whether you change jobs or not. Over the years, I have been to dozens of interviews across numerous industries despite the fact that I have been, for the most, happily employed. And these experiences have not only helped shape my own career but have also has directly benefited my effectiveness as a hiring manager and interviewer.
As an interviewee, we often feel vulnerable and at the mercy of the interviewer; we are naturally eager and obedient in these situations, seemingly happy to perform any task that is asked of us. Many of us have often felt that the harder the interview, the more desirable the job. But how far would you go to ensure that you landed the job of your dreams? Here is a guide to help you determine how much you should sacrifice to be a good candidate.
One of the first questions that most recruiters will ask is if you are currently working. If you answer in the affirmative, you are certainly within your rights to expect minimal disturbances to your daily work life. If the hiring company regularly calls you during your 10am meeting, you should not feel shy to ask them to contact you, say, on your lunch break. If they would like to meet you for an interview, it is not unreasonable for them to accommodate your schedule - within reason, of course. While you will make every effort to make yourself available for an interview, you should always expect an interviewer to afford you the same treatment. A company that does not respect your realities is not one with whom you should be fond of working.
Details up front
A good recruiter or hiring manager will provide a detailed explanation of the interview process up front. If they don’t offer up this information from the outset, don’t be afraid to ask for it. This is a good practice as it provides all candidates with an insight of what to expect. If an interview process is particularly long or arduous, many candidates may opt to bow out. And this should never be considered a bad thing. If you are contacted about a job for which you are only mildly interested, would you be willing to, say, travel across the country for an interview? Expectations should always be set ahead of time and should, ideally, only involve candidates who are serious about the position.
Don't be original
Personally, I have been through some interview processes where I have had to produce original work. At the time, I was happy to spend hours of my personal time crafting some original pieces as it could have led to some potentially interesting professional avenues. However, in hindsight, I discovered that this is rarely a beneficial use of your time. You should always be wary of companies that ask you produce original work for them unless there is explicit written documentation explaining the future use of said work. If a company would like to review your work, you can direct them to your portfolio or a summary of your accomplishments. If they insist on you creating work for free, feel free to take a step back and see if it something that you are willing to do. And you should never feel embarrassed to say no.
Don't spend your own money
Often, attending an interview has some costs associated to it: a taxi ride to and from the meeting or maybe buying a new tie or blouse. These are expected costs that we all happily incur. However, you should always be wary about a company that obliges you to spend your own money up-front to attend an interview. Personally, I was once asked to travel out of province for an interview and was assured that my expenses would be reimbursed on the day of the meeting. After a long day of interviewing, I was told that my expenses would be mailed to me. It took many months and dozens of emails before said cheque was delivered. Needless to say, I have never agreed to spend my own money for an interview again. If a company wants to meet you, they should have no problem making the necessary financial arrangements to make it happen (if necessary).
Ask for a decision
If you have been through a particularly long or difficult interview process, it is not unreasonable to ask for a timely decision. Often, companies are very demanding on their candidates and require them to jump through hoops for weeks on end. I was once involved in an interview process that lasted three months! If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in such a lengthy ordeal, you should not feel shy about asking about the status of your application. Very often, candidates allow companies to dictate the terms of the entire process and feel quite helpless throughout. If you have taken the time to acquiesce to their processes, you are certainly within your rights to ask that they keep you will informed about the ultimate outcome.
Having interviewed for so many positions over my career has allowed me to approach all interviews with a much greater degree of confidence. I am able to more easily determine a good company from a bad one based simply based on how they conduct themselves during the hiring process. Gaining this level of experience also allows you to set your own personal thresholds that will undoubtedly help you save time, money and frustration down the road.